The Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish, last night said he would only answer Wayne Rooney's negative comments about Luis Suarez face-to-face, after the Manchester United striker said the controversial Uruguayan striker should have been dismissed three minutes into his return from an eight-game suspension.
Suarez, who was banned for racially abusing Patrice Evra and for a further one game over an obscene gesture at Fulham fans, kicked Scott Parker hard in the stomach, earning himself a yellow card. Rooney immediately tweeted to say: "If ref sees that kick from Suarez and books him for it, should be red" – an incendiary comment which promises to further stoke the atmosphere when Liverpool travel to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.
The challenge immediately divided opinion, with the former Manchester United defender and Sky analyst Gary Neville declaring that Suarez was "a bit lucky" and might have been dismissed – a view which the BBC's Mark Bright later supported. At best, it could be said that the Uruguayan was over-eager as he sought to make an immediate impact, though Neville felt that Suarez knew exactly what he was doing when he directed his kick at the 31-year-old.
Dalglish offered an acerbic response to questions about the challenge, insisting that Suarez had not seen Parker when he kicked out as a ball dropped in the Tottenham area. "He just never saw him," Dalglish said. Of Rooney and Neville's comments, he added: "Well, why don't you tweet Wayne back and give your answer. I don't have a view. If Gary or Wayne were here I would give them an answer. I think everything we can say about Luis we've said. I think every game he plays he makes an impact."
The Liverpool manager contributed last night to what is certain to be an incendiary Old Trafford atmosphere by repeating his claim that Suarez should not have received his eight-game ban in the first place – a comment which will not delight the football authorities who are seeking to reduce the temperature before what is likely to be Suarez's first start since his suspension. "We're delighted to have him back. We should never have had him out in the first place," Dalglish said.
The importance of the player was evident as Liverpool's eighth home draw of the season again laid bare their failure to convert their chances. The club's chance conversion rate is the worst in the Premier League. Though Andy Carroll spurned several good chances on a night when Tottenham were without Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Defoe, Sandro and Younes Kaboul, Dalgish focused on the fact that Liverpool have more clean sheets than any other Premier League side. "It's important not to concede goals," he said. "We've not scored the number of goals we would like to score. Gary Player once said 'the harder you work, the better you get'."
The assistant manager at Tottenham, Kevin Bond, said he did not believe Suarez should have been dismissed. "No I don't think so," he said. "I never like seeing anybody getting sent off."